Thursday, March 02, 2017


by Brother John Samaha, S.A.

Christians have never been required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem as Muslims have been required to visit Mecca to commemorate Muhammad's hegira or flight.  Rather Christian holy places have been transported to churches  across the world in the form of the stations of the cross.  "Making the stations" requires only moving from one station to the next.  The stations themselves, although often accompanied by elaborate artistic depictions, are simply small wooden crosses.

        A tradition holds that the Virgin Mary daily retraced the steps of the way of the cross.  However, only in the Middle Ages did this devotion flourish.  In the earliest centuries of Christianity the focus was on the risen Christ.  Medieval Christians emphasized the passion and death of Jesus and wished to tread in his very footsteps.  Those who could afford to do so made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.   Others had the Holy Land brought to them in the form of the stations of the cross, reproductions of the holy places of Jerusalem erected in their locales. 

        When the Franciscans were given custody of the holy places of Jerusalem in 1343,  they aroused in the faithful an active interest in the passion of Christ.  In the eighteenth century the Franciscan St. Leonard of Port Maurice, "preacher of the way of the cross," spread the devotion widely, making it possible for non-Franciscan churches t0 have the stations.  Previously this was not allowed. 

        Originally fourteen stations were the norm.  In 1975 Pope Paul VI approved a fifteenth station, the resurrection.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

A Lenten Reflection - The Story of a Prince

"There was once a king, lord of many kingdoms, who had one only son, so beautiful, so holy, so amiable, that he was the delight of his father, who loved him as much as himself. This young prince had a great affection for one of his slaves; so much so that, the slave having committed a crime for which he had been condemned to death, the prince offered himself to die for the slave; the father, being jealous of justice, was satisfied to condemn his beloved son to death, in order that the slave might remain free from the punishment that he deserved: and thus the son died a malefactor's death, and the slave was freed from punishment."

- Saint Alphonsus di Liguori, The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

ACN News - South Sudan’s bishops cry out for aid, protection for civilians

By Esther Gaitan-Fuertes

The “people live in fear.” That was the thrust of an urgent pastoral appeal issued by South Sudan’s seven bishops, who charged both government troops and the armed opposition with using force against civilians as part of an ongoing civil war in the country.

A copy of the bishops’ pastoral letter was obtained by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

The prelates wrote: “Some towns have become ‘ghost towns’, empty except for security forces and perhaps members of one faction or tribe. Even when they have fled to our churches or to UN camps for protection, they are still harassed by security forces.”

The bishops insisted that the humanitarian crisis that grips South Sudan is mostly due to insecurity and poor economic management: “Millions of our people are affected, with large numbers displaced from their homes and many fleeing to neighboring countries, where they are facing appalling hardships in refugee camps.”

The bishops have called on Caritas South Sudan and its international partners to act urgently to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan; they also called on the international to intervene.

The Church leaders, expressing concern that “some elements within the government appear to be suspicious of the Church,” affirmed that the Church does not take sides in the conflict.

The wrote: “We are FOR all good things - peace, justice, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, dialogue, the rule of law, good governance – and we are AGAINST evil - violence, killing, rape, torture, looting, corruption, arbitrary detention, tribalism, discrimination, oppression.”

The bishops expressed their readiness to meet with any party “who we believe has the power to change our country for the better.”

The bishops called on Catholics in South Sudan to “work for justice and peace; reject violence and revenge.” They also asked for prayers that Pope Francis’ intention to visit the nation later this year will become a reality.

With picture of displaced children in South Sudan (© ACN)

Editor’s Notes:

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.